Iraqi Kurdish commander who helped lead fight against ISIS killed

Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters hold a position on the front line in Khazer near the Kurdish checkpoint of Aski kalak, 40 km West of Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq on September 16, 2014.

SAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images

IRBIL, Iraq -- A bomb blast in northern Iraq killed a senior Kurdish commander prominent in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and two of his bodyguards on Tuesday.

Maj. Gen. Salah Delmani, head of the 118th brigade of the Kurdish peshmerga forces, was killed along with his two bodyguards when a bomb detonated near his car near the northern city of Kirkuk.

Peshmerga officials told The Associated Press it was unclear whether explosives were planted on Delmani's car or if his motorcade was struck by a roadside bomb. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

ISIS militants have held parts of Kirkuk province since the group's blitz across northern Iraq last summer, but have never managed to control the provincial capital. In January, Sherko Fatih, another senior peshmerga commander, was killed along with at least eight peshmerga fighters, when the militants launched a surprise attack on his outpost near the city of Kirkuk.

Kirkuk is home to a mix of Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen, who all have competing claims to the oil-rich area. The Kurds want to incorporate it into their self-ruled region in Iraq's north, a proposition strongly opposed by Arabs and Turkmen.

Following the quick collapse of the Iraqi army in the face of the militant threat last year, Kurdish forces took control of the Kirkuk. Since then, Kirkuk has often come under ISIS attacks, with the militants likely hoping to seize the oil fields near the city.

Delmani was the commander in Daquq, a village south of Kirkuk on the road to Baghdad, which was recently recaptured from ISIS.